Inspiration in Hawaiian Quilt Designs
No one is sure where the designs in Hawaiian quilts come from. Before missionaries arrived, Hawaiian natives created cloth from the inner bark of an island tree. They used this kapa moe for bedcoverings, but the designs were painted rather than appliquéd and were more geometric than those found on Hawaiian quilts. German missionaries may have brought to the islands the tradition of scherenschnitte, intricate papercutting, and may have brought quilts based on scherenschnitte, as well. However the designs came into being, once they were created by the quilter they were kept within a family for many years. Not all Hawaiian quilts use designs based in nature: flags and even figures can be found on quilts made in the Hawaiian Islands.
Quilts like this one were likely made by a woman of means, who would have the time to create such a masterpiece, Carolyn says. Its excellent condition indicates it wasn’t heavily used as a bedcovering, but rather brought out for display when guests visited and then tucked away.
Photo courtesy of International Quilt Study Center, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 2005.015.0001.